Big changes, new realities and much more
The mostly-annual Facebook F8 Conference is in full swing for 2019, and its keynote presentation brings with it some big changes to Facebook’s platform – for both users and brands. Here’s a quick recap of the main changes;
Death of the News Feed: Facebook shifts its focus
As with any changes to Facebook’s key platforms the complications for advertisers, marketers and of course, users, can be monumental. Despite attempts to restrain ourselves from endlessly scrolling, the social media giant is a permanent part of our lives – and Facebook knows this. Before you get concerned this is a good thing! The more that Facebook becomes integral to our social spheres, the better its platforms and impacts on us as users will be. Facebook’s move away from a general feed to a group-focused platform is a change they hope will enhance the sense of community that has long been the goal of the site. Users now have a groups tab that will give them a personalized feed of all of their active groups. Other new features that encourage engagement and the development of expanded relationships with current and new groups and members have also been added. These features will help to enhance group involvement, with friend recommendations, marketplace ads and Watch content reflecting user’s active groups.
Events have also been updated to include easier navigation and better recommendations, further pushing the community focus. There are a few key reasons why Facebook is making such drastic changes to the core nature of their platform. Zuckerberg discussed the mind-blowing numbers behind the switch.
‘There are tens of millions of active groups on Facebook. When people find the right one, it often becomes the most meaningful part of how they use Facebook. And today, more than 400 million people on Facebook belong to a group’ (F8 Conference)
Facebook’s continuing issues with privacy, security and online discourse are another reason the social giant wants to alter how users interact with the platform. For advertisers this could mean significant changes as the news feed worked primarily as a data-harvesting tool, allowing for targeted advertising based on user’s online behaviour. With the emergence of groups as a focal point, there is potential for heavily targeted advertising based on demographics, community and common interests.
Instagram enhances creator control and user well-being
Instagram is taking steps to empower the myriad creators, influencers and digital retailers that rely on the platform as an integral part of their business. Rejuvenated camera features encourage stylish original-content, allowing for ground-up development of posts and videos from within the Instagram app – from scratch. The new Create Mode shows the platform’s dedication to the creators and influencers that are accelerating Instagram’s growth. See it in action at the 7:30 mark of the conference. Another key change comes in how users shop and purchase items through the platform. Where in the past only brands could utilise shopping tags, now influencers and other users will be able to tag products which followers can purchase directly from the app using Instagram’s in-app checkout beta. This opens up many new opportunities for creators and brands alike and will allow for better insight into brand partnerships and the returns that they offer brand and advertisers.
These changes come as Facebook continues to lose younger users to the chicer photo-sharing platform. Further changes are being tested to improve the connection that users are having with one another’s content, by removing public like-counts. Only the account owner will be able to see the like-count, with users encouraged to engage with the content itself. Testing will begin in Canada, with Instagram hoping that the changes will lead to higher quality content and less ‘click and like-bait’.
‘Although likes can be mood-boosting and encouraging to users, they can also bring them down, especially if content doesn’t perform well. At the same time, likes can incentivize less interesting content and facilitate like-garnering posts, like nudity, food porn, and classic Instagram-bait scenes’ (The Verge)
These changes are a long time coming, and have been a focal point of discourse surrounding the issues that Instagram and Instagram-culture are having on mental health. Many of the platforms key users have discussed how like-culture can warp their own and their user’s sense of beauty and reality. This update would fundamentally change the nature of the platform, so extensive testing is to be expected before a final outcome.
Facebook continues to build on the Messenger platform
Facebook’s messenger client is also receiving changes as it continues to grow, building on added features that allow for phone number and offline integration. The service aims to enhance communications with close friends, through mutual video-watching, enhanced photo-sharing and secret conversations – with security guarantees from Facebook. You can check this out from the 1:30 mark in the conference. Significant changes have been made to optimise the messenger app for iOS. Reduced storage requirements and battery use mean a more seamless and reliable experience, one that Facebook hope will become users main form of messaging across all platforms. To complement this, a desktop app is in development for both Windows and Mac to be released later in 2019.
‘Our next goal is to make Messenger the fastest messaging app out there — to be the most reliable, though, we need to ensure the service is available everywhere you are, and that means having a great desktop experience’ (F8 Conference)
This expands the Facebook ecosystem and is a good way of keeping users plugged in day and night. A desktop app opens up new opportunities for video calls and conferencing, and a seamless transition across platforms. Facebook intends to offer new business tools alongside the expansion of messenger, making the platform a primary channel for business marketing and customer service integration. More and more businesses are adopting instant messaging as a way of conducting customer service, with insights from Forbes suggest that the future of marketing and customer service lies in instant messaging services, such as Facebook’s messenger.
Oculus brings us new possibilities, new dimensions
The long-awaited upgrade to the Oculus VR series was announced at the conference, revealing release dates, pricing and specs on two new products. The Oculus Rift S sees incremental design upgrades from 2016’s Oculus Rift. Again, you can expect a powerful tethered headset operating on PC software with access to an impressive array of content on both Oculus Store and SteamVR. Alternatively, the all-new Oculus Quest is a fully wireless, self-contained console aimed at the mass-market. The Quest offers the same full experience of the Rift S, but instead runs on the Android operating system. Facebook believes that this is a big year for VR, and with the Quest they have delivered a mass-marketable all-in-one console, outlining their confidence in the platform. Speculation and insight from industry experts suggest that worldwide spend on the VR and AR segment is set to boom, with some predicting 5-year compounded growth of 70%. With the growth of VR comes increased opportunities for business development, as usage grows so too do the opportunities for advertising and targeted campaigns. Possibilities for VR integration across Facebook’s various platforms is an intriguing concept, one that we surely won’t need to wait long to see. Both products start at $399 and are available in limited release on May 22 this year. Check out the awesome Vader Immortal trailer for the Oculus here.
Facebook’s dating service was announced with a limited release at last years F8 conference, and this year they have announced the expansion of the service to 14 more countries. A new addition is the ‘Secret Crush’ feature, which allows users to select up to 9 people that they have an attraction for (this can only end well). If you share a mutual ‘crush’ then both of the users will be notified and encouraged to connect. Facebook’s dating platform attempts to enhance connections through conversations, photos and question prompts, rather than purely aesthetic connections. The service plans to further integrate groups and events into the dating process, coming full circle on the new community-based algorithms that Facebook are pushing. This is another example of Facebook striving to offer complete services and to unify their varied platforms. Zuckerberg openly discussed how users have developed a mistrust of Facebook, with moves to personalise the experience and reconnect users coming back into focus for the social giant.